I remember my youngest son telling a story about a first job in a video store. One of his duties was to vacuum at the end of the night. The store manager once said to him, “Boy, your mom sure taught you how to vacuum good!“ “Not my mom,“ was his reply, “my Dad.“
Here’s What Dads Do
Families are all different, not to mention constantly changing. What dads do will shift as new generations come into adulthood and the makeup of the family unit changes. While there is no set criteria for what dads do, here are some things that should be on the list from my experiences. I know lots of dads, but three of them I know quite well – my own dad; my husband (dad to our sons); and my son ( dad to our grandson). As I started to think about what they do, or did do as dads, some ideas stood out as important.
They worked with their wives as equal partners. All three generations of dads shared and worked on household budgets together, in one form or another. They all made big family plans together, like where to live and houses or cars to buy, or family vacations. They all saw or see their wives as important partners in the business of family.
DADS WORK WITH THEIR WIVES AS EQUAL PARTNERS
They showed and taught respect for their wives and mothers and daughters. I’m talking about 3 generations of Dads. So the way they showed this differed, but was still there. My own Dad, who was born in 1910, thought that women belonged only in the home and didn’t approve that I wanted to go away to college and, when married, wanted to work. I don’t remember my own mother ever expressing a desire to do anything different from being a wife and mother. He did, however, respect my decisions. My husband, (we got married in 1965), met me in college and, even though I probably would have followed my family’s ideals rather easily (at the “old” age of 20 when we got married) and been a stay-at-home wife and mother, he encouraged me to go work at the career I was pursuing, and continued to encourage me in every new pursuit from then on. Again he respected me and my decisions. My son, married in 2007, respected and agreed with his wife’s decisions to stay at home with their young son for the first two years and then to go to work, and later to begin her own practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist. So, as you can read, the actual way it was done may have been different from generation to generation, but respect was still there.
DADS SHOW AND TEACH RESPECT FOR THEIR WIVES AND DAUGHTERS
They accepted commitment – to their wives, to their children, to their families, to their jobs. They were in it for the long term. Not only did they accept commitment, they taught it to their children. They may not have always liked it, as when my own Dad used to have to come home from work to take me to school. (I didn’t like to ride the bus and often threw up when I got on it.) He most likely didn’t like it, but he DID it. They worked through the trying times and didn’t give up.
DADS ACCEPT COMMITTMENT
They took responsibility for themselves and their families and were dependable. I always knew I could depend on Dad for help if I needed it. He was always there. Sure, he often worked late, but I always knew where he was and how to get him if I needed him. The same was true with my husband. I could count on him. And my son follows the same pattern. Dependability to a family came first. All three also expected their families to be responsible citizens. They expect and expected their children to act properly and lawfully and they accepted responsibility for them and their actions.
DADS ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES
They taught skills – like the vacuuming. My husband taught about cooking. He loved everything about it – the ingredients, the implements, the process, and the sheer joy of sitting down to a well-cooked meal. And he passed those skills down to his family. He taught practical skills, about houses and cars. And he taught work skills, like dress well for work, be on time, always do your best. Come to think of it my own dad taught us work skills, too. I see my son teaching his young son those same things – for instance how to comb your hair so it doesn’t stand up (which my 4 ½ year old grandson explained to me one day for about 10 minutes.) My dad taught me how to drive. As a manager for the telephone company, he had to attend lots of safety meetings. He brought those things home and taught them to us. I have often felt that he also taught me about dying. He had cancer. I remember him saying that when he and my mom went to the doctor to get the results of the tests, they were told that his cancer had spread and there was nothing else that could be done. “The doctor was crying, Mom was crying,” he said, “I had to hold them both up.” He didn’t complain to us, he accepted what was happening, he helped all of us.
DADS TEACH SKILLS
They taught ethics and morals and acceptance of others – like respect for oneself and for others, honor your parents, tell the truth, follow the rules, don’t steal and cheat, be dependable, and on and on.
DADS TEACH ETHICS AND MORALS
They planned for the future – they planned on retirement and on income for the family if something happened to them. I remember reading a letter my dad had written for us for when he died where he noted how much money my mom would get, down to the last penny. I was impressed with his accuracy. My husband and I planned together for our future as a couple and when one of us died, and saw that provisions were set up to meet needs. I see my son and his wife, still a long ways to go in working, but expecting to work and planning for the future.
DADS PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
They valued education – They realized that they had an important part in seeing that it happened. I remember my dad helping me with a community college project by collecting wildflowers in some of the areas he went to for work. I smile even now when I imagine him walking out through the field next to the telephone building he had to inspect, wearing his suit and tie and picking a thistle for me, which he brought home proudly to add to my collection. I also remember him reading words out of the Reader’s Digest at the Sunday table and we would all try to pick the correct definition. My husband encouraged our boys to do their best, do their homework, get good grades. He taught typing in high school so he made sure all of our children learned how to type. He shared books and ideas with them and talked to them about their projects. He encouraged and helped them go on to college. My son started a college fund early, looks for the best schools for his son, READS TO HIM all the time, talks to him about all kinds of topics, and explains patiently.
DADS VALUE EDUCATION
They played and had fun with their families. My dad wasn’t as involved in this as the next two generations, but he took us places. I remember playing games with him like miniature golf. My husband loved movies and took his sons to the new ones out, watched together on TV, played video games with them, played chess, and Scrabble, Yahtzee and other games. My son builds Legos with his son, teaches him games, watches movies with him, reads books, plays catch and more.
DADS PLAY AND HAVE FUN WITH THEIR FAMILIES
There are many more examples I could list under each one. And some people would say, Moms do the same things. And they are right. They do. Each one brings his or her own unique perspective to enrich their children’s lives. Each one is equally important. Also good families that work for the benefit of all family members aren’t always a combination of a mom and a dad. That happened to be my experience. But there are single moms and single dads, two moms, two dads, grandparents serving as moms and dads, uncles, and aunts parenting. There is a wide variety in the makeup of families. The points made about what Dads do are equally relevant for all these situations.
As I looked at three generations of dads very close to me, the point I wanted to make in this post is that what dads do has always been important, they have always had a lot to do to help children develop well.
When all of us first become parents, we have little knowledge of all the myriad duties and responsibilities it entails. Children are lucky if they happen to be born to dads who realize they have a lot to learn and who work with their spouses to provide the stable kind of home needed by children.
WHAT CAN A DAD DO?
AND TO HELP OUR CHILDREN GROW INTO HEALTHY, HAPPY PEOPLE, HE MUST!